There are more than 278,000 questions that need to be answered in the key state of Queensland on election day. Where will all those people who voted for the Palmer United Party (PUP) in 2013 go now that Clive Palmer has effectively pulled out of the House of Representatives race?
PUP gained enough support to rank third in 2013 in Queensland, with their 11% of first-preference votes even beating the 6% of the Greens.
Now PUP has imploded – Martin Brewster in Herbert is the only House of Representatives candidate across the nation – the 709,000 Australians who gave the party a chance three years ago will have to cast their lower-house votes elsewhere.
Griffith University Emeritus Professor of Politics Patrick Weller said the 2013 result was “a fluke” that would “never happen again”.
Prof Weller said that although it was likely former PUP supporters would vote conservative, it would be a close call between their selection of the Coalition or independents.
“People are looking for someone to vote for outside of the major parties which, as far as I’m concerned, includes the Greens,” he said.
In 2013, the Liberal National Party (LNP) vote fell by almost 2% across Queensland from 2010.
Labor’s dropped by almost 4% and the Greens’ numbers were reduced by more than 4.5%.
Palmer won the seat of Fairfax and Labor lost seats in Capricornia and Petrie.
For Bill Shorten to win this election he must pick up a haul of LNP-held seats in Queensland and the former PUP supporters are key targets.
In Petrie, which the LNP has on a 0.5% margin, PUP attracted 10.2% of voters in 2013 and almost 8% in Capricornia, which Michelle Landry won by 1305 votes.
Bonner (7.8% of PUP votes in 2013), Forde (12.5%) and Leichhardt (8.6%) are other LNP marginals that have a new force of swinging voters.
However, University of the Sunshine Coast politics lecturer Bronwyn Stevens said she expected PUP’s former supporters to head to conservative parties.
“Some of Clive Palmer’s voters were fairly conservative so some of them might go to the Liberals or other conservative independents," she said.
“Pauline Hanson’s [One Nation is] in the race, she may take some of the PUP vote.
“The Liberals will still do well here in Queensland.”
Palmer is not re-contesting Fairfax, which he won with 26.5% of first-preferences, leaving the LNP’s Ted O’Brien, who lost last time by 53 votes, and the Labor candidate Scott Anderson to battle over the historically conservative electorate.
Anderson is confident voter dissatisfaction with the LNP has significantly damaged their chances in the region and will provide a boost for Labor.
“Labor, for many reasons after six years in government, wasn’t an option for a lot of people [in 2013], so they turned to Palmer,” Anderson said.
Anderson said at the last election there was a strong element of voters wanting someone other than the LNP.
The Coalition has held the seat since it was introduced in 1984.
Labor polled at just over 18% of first-preference votes in Fairfax in 2013, which was down by 9% on the previous campaign.
O’Brien gained 41%, which was 8% less than Alex Somlyay in his final term, before being beaten on preferences by Palmer.
The Greens lost 10% of their 2010 haul.
Stevens said in Fairfax Palmer’s approach to the area’s voters left people cold.
“In terms of being a parliamentary representative, he wasn’t there for a lot of the votes and he certainly wasn’t seen to be pushing the coast agenda or even taking seriously the concerns of the coast voters,” she said.
“In general terms I think Clive was a huge disappointment and he’s also incredibly erratic and mercurial.”
PUP also polled strongly in other parts of south-east Queensland, gaining 17.7% of first-preferences in Hinkler, 17.4% in Fisher, 15.9% in Wide Bay and 12.8% in Longman.